Peter Gelb Offers New Stance on Privacy for Russian Artists at Met Opera

By Francisco Salazar

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb is taking a new stance on Russian artists performing at the Met Opera, noting he will allow them privacy.

In an interview with the Guardian, Gelb said, “Most Russian artists, including other singers who perform at the Met, have not taken any public political position. Their private positions are theirs to keep private. I have no problem with that. We’re not asking them to fill out questionnaires, or for their loyalty to the Met or to the west. We’re doing none of that and nor do I think it’s appropriate.”

This is a change in position from Gelb as he previously stated, “While we believe strongly in the warm friendship and cultural exchange that has long existed between the artists and the artistic institutions of Russia and the United States, we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him. Not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made.”

This led to him to publicly cut ties with the Bolshoi Theatre and most prominently, soprano Anna Netrebko who he recently stated he was not ready to bring back to the Met because of her ties to the current Russian regime, which the soprano has attempted to distance herself from. That said, Gelb continues to have numerous artists on his roster for upcoming productions that have known or continued ties to Putin and Putin-backed organizations. Soprano Hibla Gerzmava, still on the Met’s roster for the 2022-23 season to sing a production of “Tosca,” signed the letter in favor of the annexation of Crimea a few years ago. Also on Gelb’s roster is Evgeny Nikitin who along with Gerzmava, is currently performing at the Mariinsky Theatre under the baton of Valery Gergiev, who last week was personally offered by Putin to unite the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatre, and is no longer performing outside of Russia because of his support of Putin.

Regarding cutting ties with Russian theaters, Gelb told the Guardian, “We had to immediately sever relations with Putin-backed organizations, which sadly included the Bolshoi. I greatly admire them artistically, but it is Putin who literally signs the contract of my counterpart there and so the decision was clear.”

Gelb’s change in stance on Russian artists also follows the announcements made by several opera companies in Europe stating that they will not fire or cut ties with Russian artists over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.